MANHATTAN — An advisory panel has released a list of more than 30 forms of cancer it believes should be covered under the Zadroga Act — part of a preliminary report that leaves the door open to all cancers being covered.
If either option is adopted, hundreds of 9/11 first responders suffering from cancer would be eligible for the first time for compensation for their treatment under the act's $2.8 billion fund.
Cancer patients have so far been excluded from Zadroga because of what was deemed an insufficient link between the toxic dust clouds at Ground Zero and cancer when the act was signed. But new studies have provided a growing body of evidence that those who worked on the pile in the days and weeks after the attack are already suffering at much higher rates than those who weren't there.
"It’s a big win that some cancers are being recommended and the committee will decide on Wednesday whether it will be them or all cancers," said Catherine McVay Hughes, a member of the 15-member World Trade Center Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee.
Congress formed the committee to review research and decide which health conditions are linked to toxins from the Sept. 11 attacks.
The preliminary list includes lung and other respiratory cancers, esophageal, stomach and skin cancers, cancers of the liver and thyroid, mesothelioma, lymphoma and leukemia, as well as other cancers linked to substances detected at the site.
The panel will hold a final meeting on March 28, when the public will be able to weigh in on the draft. It is expected to vote on which of the two options to recommend, Hughes said.
The panel has until April 2 to submit its final recommendations.
Dr. John Howard, the World Trade Center health program administrator for the federal government, will then have 60 days to issue a final response about which cancers, if any, should be covered.
Numerous studies have shown that those who were exposed to 9/11 toxins — which included heavy metals, asbestos and fine concrete particles — have an elevated cancer risk.
The act was named after James Zadroga, a police officer who died of respiratory illness after being exposed to Ground Zero's toxic gas during the rescue and recovery efforts.
The years-long fight to include cancer in the Zadroga Act has earned the support of many politicians and public figures, including talk-show host Jon Stewart.
Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand praised the panel's early recommendations as a crucial step toward coverage.
“It is time to provide the care these heroes deserve, and we will not rest until cancer is included on the list of eligible diseases for treatment and compensation by the 9/11 health bill," they said in a joint statement.
If Howard chooses to include cancer coverage, it will likely take several months before the coverage becomes official, according to a spokeswoman at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
The World Trade Center Health Program & Scientific & Technical Advisory Committee teleconference will be held on Wednesday, March 28, from 1 to 5 p.m., with a public comment period from 1:10 to 1:55 p.m. The dial-in number is: 1-800-593-0693 (Participant code: 4447238). Responders, volunteers and survivors are being invited to take part at the NYC Police Museum at 100 Old Slip.